I’m not a stranger to loneliness. I understand the pain of being uninvited, yet those are feelings that most who know me would never guess I carried. They’d be shocked because they’ve made assumptions based on my extroverted personality type.
I’ve always been the girl who strikes up conversations with strangers in the grocery store, even as a young child. So when I started kindergarten, I was thrilled to meet new friends and hear their stories. Then my first progress report came home. A check mark indicated ‘lack of self-control’ with the teacher’s comment: “Jenny (my childhood nickname) needs to stop chatting with her neighbors.” And so, second-guessing who I was began. An endless cycle of wishing away how the Lord made me.
By the time I could actually pen New Year’s resolutions, my January list contained some form of “You’ll be more popular if you’d be like the quiet girls. Stop talking so much. Just don’t talk.”
As my identity took shape, my tender heart held on to my “lack of self-control” and failed to embrace the other remarks. The ones where the teachers observed, “Jenny is a friend to everyone. She always has a smile.” Those words didn’t matter. I saw myself as a talker and I didn’t like it.
Early on I identified this “character flaw” and was determined to stifle how God creatively fashioned me in a pursuit to be more introverted. I’d pray for wisdom before group interactions, but it always resembled something like, “Lord, let me not talk. Let me sit and be quiet.”
A few years ago I found my junior high diary buried deep in our attic. Time stood still as I leafed to a page that read, “I have totally changed my image. Now I am not Big Mouth Jenny, but much better.”
Much better? In comparison to what? I instantly felt transported back to my childhood bedroom. Crazy how our deep-rooted wounds can rear their heads at the most unlikely times.
But now I was ready to fight back. Don’t we all need to speak truth to our younger selves?
This is what I said to little Jenny and what I’d say to younger you, too:
Precious daughter of the most High God, when He created you in His image, He destined you to use your words for His glory. He cares about your heart and made no mistakes when He formed you. He certainly does not want you to spend emotional energy concerned with changing how He gifted and wired you.
This January’s lists and dreams have me praying through and resting in Psalm 139. Now I see through the seasoned lens of a fifty-something woman, and I write: “Lord, You search me and know every hidden crevice of my heart and personality. You uniquely created me and understand me more than anyone. Before my journey even began, You went into my future to prepare a way for my past. It’s such a breathtaking reminder that not one single detail of my life fails to pass through Your hands first.”
Yet, can I be honest, sisters? Even as God has grown me in embracing exactly how He crafted me, even as I intentionally praise God for His mindfulness of me . . . it’s still tempting to sometimes believe that I would be better off being a different version of me.
I went out to dinner recently with some new friends who are knowledgeably trained in analyzing enneagram personality types. I found our conversation fascinating until a question got posed to the group, “What’s the personality type you have the most trouble with?” I became paralyzed when nearly everyone declared, “Sevens!” — the Enthusiast.
Can you guess? That’s my fun-loving, spontaneous, hospitality, people-person type who can sometimes have way too many distracted balls in the air. Sigh.
I awkwardly admitted to being an extroverted “7″, and they quickly reassured me, “Oh don’t worry, you’re different.” Yet for a moment, I slipped into my childhood shadows where I’d be less conspicuous.
I think of the saying, “The grass is always greener on the other side.” Extroverts wish they had more introverted tendencies, and introverts wished they were more extroverted. We shove ourselves into a box that doesn’t fit us, attempting to dress it up with a perfect bow so no one knows. We wrestle — a push and pull tension between accepting who God made us to be, and imparting grace to ourselves as we work on our flaws.
How we treat ourselves in the midst of our wrestling matters. Instead of telling myself, “Just be quiet like the other girls,” I remind myself, “Jen, listen more than you speak. When you do speak, speak with love and discernment. Speak boldly with passion and always anoint others with words of blessing and encouragement.”
I’ve witnessed decades of the Lord’s faithfulness as He continues to allow me to use my gift of words to reach the kingdom. When I struggle with junior high feelings, I remember that I am made in His image and living fully as God created me to be is worship lived out.
Just yesterday I received an email that said, “Jen, thank you for seeking me out today after you spoke. Your story resonates so much and you made me feel less alone.”
What a gift. He redeems it all. My wordiness, my loneliness, my self-control check marks are all for His glory.
Have you held onto childhood labels or personality traits that you’ve wished away for far too long? I’d be honored to kick them to the curb together in the comments.
Mary W says
WOW! This hit me hard today. I’m an introvert and really struggle with conversation so I’m assumed to be a snob, when really I’m struggling with what to say so I avoid people, large gatherings and conversation. I’ve often wished I could be more outgoing and just manage a conversation. You’ve given me much to ponder as I consider this new year and my “word” to focus on … peace.
ME TOO! Praying for all of us.
Exactly. Totally get that.
I relate to you, Mary, as well. I am also more introverted and sensitive and also have social anxiety. I try to push through the social anxiety, but after initial greetings and a little small talk, I can struggle with keeping conversations going. It can be challenging as an introvert living in an extroverted world.
This resonates strongly within me!
I have also been labeled as snobbish when insecurity drove me to the corners while attending social events.
I have learned, “We are all different and different is neither good nor bad. It is just different.”
This helps me to be okay with who I am and my inability to make small talk. I have come to learn that listening is a gift.
Yes, your listening is one of the greatest gifts and He has created us all different for His glory. xoxo
Jen- thank you so much for this. For so long I’ve struggled with labels which range from the slightly less hard (quiet, shy) to the harsher (careless, ditzy). Over the years this caused me to believe the lie that I then had to be “nice” and “quiet” to be accepted/loved. I still struggle with some of these labels- they do rear their ugly heads. I am cheering you on and so thankful for your gifts of written and spoken words, thank you for this!!
Thank you, Allison. Cheering you on from my little spot in NC as well.
How I resonate with this; so many childhood labels: thin-skinned, sensitive, attention-getter, moody, shy, proud, vain, glutton. I’m slowly moving toward truth.
Jes – yes, it can be slow moving but His truth is the goal. You are so loved.
Ruth Mills says
YES! He redeems it all! I’m an odd mix of the quietest one in the room & yet the one that organized the gathering to start with. I threw a party in highschool with probably 30-40 invitees & no one came! Only because of God could I continue to throw parties & invite people in. I hadn’t thought of that empty party in eons, but your post brought it to mind. I am again amazed God protected my heart & I didn’t die of embarrassment or withdraw from the rejection of people. God is good! Blessings!
Oh Ruth – thank you for sharing this painful, but redeeming memory. He is good and I’m celebrating that you didn’t allow what the enemy meant for evil to steal your hospitable heart. God is good!!
I love this. I’m an introvert who has severe PTSD from church abuse and shunning. I am a never married senior citizen, incredibly lonely and misunderstood and I’m not good at discerning who is safe and who is not. I’m continually burned, which intensifies the pain and makes me want to go live in a cave. I AM better if I isolate; just soooo lonely. I don’t relate to all the details in this article but absolutely DO relate to the pain. I write as an outlet and am hurt when people blow me off or misunderstand. I’ve been horribly abused in one church especially and have to go to court next Wed. So terrified that all I can do is cry. All day, every day. The pain is too much and has gone on too long. To top it off, I am recovering from a serious car accident in December.
I hear you and see you. You are not alone. So many who feel as you do are silent in this world of over the top self-selling and don’t know how to relate to the pain of loneliness. You are surrounded by other women- beloved children of God – you just don’t realize it.
God loves the meek, humble, poor in spirit. Matthew 3.
Dear Beth I am so sorry for all you have experienced and are experiencing still. I know that there are those like myself that will be praying for you and though we cannot be with you please know that we are with you in spirit and more importantly Jesus is with you
Yes, Cindy. Thank you for this affirmation.
Ruth Mills says
Dear Beth, I’m praying The God of all Comfort will surround you tangibly as you walk this path of courtroom & physical healing. May His will & justice be discerned clearly in court and may your body be stronger than ever as it recovers from your injuries. He is with you in every step! He’s collecting each of your tears. May you feel His arms wrapped tightly around you! Sorry you’ve had this particular struggle and recovery takes time. But remember eternity with Him is coming! Hugs!
Beth – Our hearts ache as we read about the layers of grief both physically and emotionally from past accidents and abuse. I pray that as you read these comments, you will feel a small measure of His love for you. While there’s nothing that can replace the in person, tangible face to face conversation, allow these words/prayers seep over your spirit to understand that you are not alone in this grief. As so many feel similarly (with very different stories), we ask that the Holy Spirit pours over you His comfort in the loneliness of times. We also pray that there would be an advocate on your behalf so that you don’t have to enter a courtroom by yourself on Wednesday.y Praying for clarity and quick resolution next week. You are so loved. xoxox
Thank you all for your kind and supportive comments. I’m finding the most support on line, as the pool of women who have experienced spiritual abuse is much larger. I had to go to another city to pick up a car yesterday, so I didn’t find these until just this morning. I’m watching church on line because I’m just too broken to be around other people right now. But your words were, indeed, loving and affirming, and I thank you for them. They are a balm to my hurting heart.
Beth Williams says
Abba Father Please be with Beth next Wednesday. Get her through the court hearing & give her a sense of peace after all she’s been through. Send a healing touch to her body from the car accident. Send friends her way that will love & cherish her the way you do. Make her happy once again. Shower her with blessings this year. In Jesus name AMEN!
This hit hard! I’m 68 and struggle daily with who God created me to be. I grew up in a home where I was expected to be perfect, and that has so negatively impacted my life. I often see myself as inadequate even when I know I’ve done my best, when my motivation has been to help and bless others. Compliments are so often shrugged off. Mistakes are flashing neon lights reminding me that I failed once again. Thank you for reminding me that I am who God created me to be and that I need to trust His love for me. My word of the year is Presence. Oh, how I need to embrace that truth every day!
Joy – Presence!! Yes, what a powerful one word declaration. Moving past a lifetime of perfectionist tendencies modeled can be so challenging. We all need to continue speaking truth to ourselves because those doubts rear their head and HIs Word squashes them.
Much love to you in this New Year as you practice His presence in your day to day.
Thank you so much for your words today! I am not really an extrovert, but certainly don’t have a problem with talking and “giving advice”. I love the sentence where you said “Instead of telling myself, “Just be quiet like the other girls,” I remind myself, “Jen, listen more than you speak. When you do speak, speak with love and discernment. Speak boldly with passion and always anoint others with words of blessing and encouragement.””. This reminds me to first listen well, and then when I do speak to let my words be a blessing. Hopefully, as I try to remember to do this it will bring better results than just telling myself to be quiet!
Thank you, Judy. We can continue living out the “listen more than you speak” reminder together but we need your words, so speak boldly with passion. 🙂
I‘be been labeled has “hyper”. I hated it, but had a friend once say to me, you’re not hyper, you’re passionate. It was so freeing. I remind myself of these freeing words when I start to feel less than.
We are kicking hyper to the curb and body embracing your passion. We need more passionate women these days.
Love that perspective!
Rosie J Williams says
Thank you for your transparent sharing! I’m less than a month from turning 73 and some of your comments brought tears to my eyes, especially when you were in a group and they spoke their true feelings about “7’s”. I was once told “you’re not a good fit for our group”, and I was left wondering “why?”. I answered that question in my head and find myself to this day pulling back from these friends from church. You have given me food for thought as I contemplate what my ministry looks like in 2023. Thank you!
I’m sorry for the pain those words caused. If only groups could widen their circle as Jesus models, we’d avoid so many of these challenging complicated feelings about church. Christ followers should be the first to welcome but often its not the case. We need your exact personality so as you pray through your 2023 ministry, I know many younger women would love to learn from your wisdom. Discipling the next generation is a gift.
Rosie .. I am 67 years old and still admonish myself for talking too much. I hesitate joining women’s groups at church because I worry that they will find out that I am a “talker”. Jen’s commentary has brought tears to my eyes as well. I will pray for you!
Jane, I read the story by Jen, next to tears. I have the message to myself on my phone screen, so I’ll see it every time I pick it up. “Don’t talk So Much”. I’ve thought I was passionate about caring about people. I can strike up a conversation with just about anybody. But I hear voices in my head from the past – Don’t talk so much. I will pray for you and Rosie. It’s easier to relate to you. I wish I could be more introverted, so I am more inclined to pray for the others that they will embrace who God made them to be! Don’t feel bad when someone thinks you’re a snob. (I think they are probably jealous.)
Angel Harp says
I am an introvert and never get invited anywhere, so I get lonely.
However, when I am somewhere that I feel comfortable and open up, I talk too much! I dominate conversations,and I share more than I should about things in my life. Every time I’m driving to my grief group, I think, ok I’m not going to talk at all tonight. I’m going to sit back and let other parents talk. Then something gets said that I relate to and it all goes downhill. So I’ve got the worst of both sides.
Angel – Right now I am taking your last sentence, “So I’ve got the worst of both sides,” and kicking that to the curb. I hear the pain and loneliness in your comments. I see the hurt that your heart is experiencing and if you’re read any of the above comments you can see how so many are struggling in this area . The enemy continues to try and steal any joy of how the Lord wired us. We all have aspects of our personality that it’s good to identify to work on, but I know that if we were sitting face to face over a cup of coffee, I could instantly see the Lord in the precious way He has created you and would love to spend time with you. He has intimately created you and knows all the longings in your soul.
Maybe you can find one other woman who you identify as lonely as well and reach out to have coffee with her. Start slow and take it from there. You are so loved by the one who perfectly designed you and you are loved by this group of women here who you’ve never met. Wish we all lived closer.
This is totally my story too!! I grew up an extrovert in an introvert family. My parents were always trying to change me…told me I talked too much. My Dad told me I had a big mouth. I’ve been told by other people that I can’t keep quiet. Sigh
I too have prayed to be an introvert but that’s not what God wants. He wants me to use my words to encourage, love and uplift people. I too have to use God’s wisdom when talking.
Sometimes I’ve felt like I’m TOO MUCH but that’s not what God says…he created me and everything He does is right and good.
It still is a struggle at times but God is loving and is walking with me through this journey.
Andrea Martin says
I just lost my father so pushing towards truth and not letting the lies of the enemy get me down. This has to be the hardest thing I have ever gone through. Thank you for speaking your truth.
RONDEE MULLENAUX says
Jen – – I can relate to every word you’ve typed. I am an extrovert (to the extreme sometimes) and have had the same conversations with myself before events, gatherings and Bible studies as you have had. One of my Bible study groups years ago even tried to “help me” by having someone pinch me if I was talking too long – – I know their intentions were good, but boy did that hurt! I love your words of encouragement – – “He cares about your heart and made no mistakes when He formed you.” Thank you for putting all of your words out there for each and every one of us. Joyfully, Rondee
Dawn Ferguson-Little says
Thank you Jen for this wonderful message. I know God is telling me to be quite. I can if someone does not tell be something that they done that they should or I see something. I say why did you tell me that. Like my Dad I asked him to tell if broke a glass. As he elderly and does not see all the glass. He thinks he has picked it up or swept it up. As he has dog who is elderly. She could get glass in her paw. Be in pain. I why didn’t you tell me you broke a glass to my Dad. Or Dad did you brake a glass. Where did you brake it because if glass still about that you don’t see. The dog could get in her paw get hurt. I sometimes get kind of cross with my Dad. As he said he would tell me and if he breaks a glass again. Most time he doesn’t. Then he says to me it all picked up. You see glass it not. I God say have to be quite more says nothing as it get me wond up that my Dad does not tell me things like this. As I feel for dog. He just says the dog be ok. That gets me cross his attatued. When he should have told me. I could look to see if any bits his missed. I do love my Dad so much. God has told me to say nothing. Just say if you see a glass broken in his kitchen bin. Did you brake a glass where did you brake it. Just look were he says. To see if he missed any when trying to clean it up. Don’t get cross with him. As he just not listen to you God has told me. Even though you are telling him so you can help him and things like the broken glass the dog of his does not get it in any of her paws and be in pain. As he doesn’t care as if he did he told you himself by saying I broke a glass last night I could have miss some glass. Telling you in case you see some as I don’t want the dog to get any in her paws if I missed any. God said because he not saved he just thinks of himself. Nothing will change Dawn until he does. You have to not get cross with him over him not telling you things like this. Say nothing or if have to say something just say see you broke a glass or did you brake a glass and we’re did you brake it. Let him tell you. Then say I look see there any bits you missed nicely to him. So as the dog don’t get them in any of her paws. Say it nicely leave it at that. Don’t get annoyed your Dad does not tell you things like that. As he keep thinking of himself. You do him home help because you love him and Like doing it for him. I have to try harder and ask God to help me be quite like other girls. Just pray for my Dad and his salvation. So I have to try harder and with God’s help I be able to do that. I not get cross with my Dad for not telling me. Keeping you all in prayer this reading spoke to thank you Jen for it. As God spoke to me through it again Love Dawn Ferguson-Little xx
When I was in high school, I found my Kindergarten report card. There was a note on it that said “advancing to 1st grade on a preliminary basis”…I wasn’t shocked because I never thought of myself as particularly intelligent. What did shock me was that I was finding this out years later. Not once did my parents reveal an inkling of this to me. That was an unknown blessing. My grades were always average to slightly above average in the things that I liked (music, art, reading, spelling). Test taking was horrible for me. I was ALWAYS second guessing myself and changing my answers. But this self-doubt carried over into my social life as well. I always felt like I was different. I didn’t care to be with the popular girls, in fact they were intimidating to me, so I just steered clear of them. I was an introvert but didn’t know what it was at the time. It wasn’t until I became a Christian at the age of 22 that I started learning about different personalities and began to realize that I was created in HIS image. It was so comforting to know that I was loved unconditionally by God. I’m ok with my Type A, hyper organized self (title given by others, not myself and that’s the nice one that I will share). I ‘ve learned to keep critical and judgmental opinions (casting every thought down to HIS obedience) to myself and only express those that are helpful and uplifting to others. I never wished to be extroverted, but I did wish to be more accepted by those that were. I am a work in progress ♥.
Maybe some of those people are jealous of your “hyper-organised” self.
Mary Hood says
Yup! Why can’t I be quiet?! I consider myself an introvert because I can shut down in an instant, in the middle of a conversation. I find it hard to engage with strangers but once I do, I’m off and running. Ps 139 is my very favorite psalm. I do think i love sharing about the Lord and words in general thrill me but I need to know when, how, to whom and how long. I can be a constant comment. People either love me or avoid me when I walk in a room. Discernment is the key, I guess.
Beth Williams says
I grew up shy & introverted. Didn’t have many friends. God has done a work in me & changed me to be a bit more outgoing-yeah!! There are times though, that I struggle with labeling myself-not smart/good enough, stupid, etc. I must realize I am made in the image of Almighty God. Calling myself those names is akin to calling God the same things. He will redeem it all & continue to mold me into his likeness.